Album Review: Weezer – Van Weezer

[Atlantic/Crush; 2021]

It’s sort of a known thing by now that Weezer have a tendency to release albums close together. For a band that’s been together since 1994, you’d probably expect them to maybe have eight or ten albums released in their discography, tops. But that would be incorrect. As it turns out, with Van Weezer they now have 15 full-length studio albums, all of them released relatively close together.

For the last decade or more, Weezer’s music has become the kind that will provide a somewhat good time in the moment. Maybe you’ll tap your toes to some tracks, but as soon as the album is over you’ll instantaneously forget everything you just heard (or you’ll remember it for the wrong reasons). For any artist, that’s really not a good thing. It feels sort of like they make music for mainstream listeners and yet, oddly enough, they haven’t necessarily had a hit single since 2005’s “Beverly Hills” – arguably the song that set them on this trajectory.

It’s almost like they’re okay with people lambasting their music and are just fully embracing how weird and outlandish they think they are, which is, honestly, kind of respectable. Just earlier this year, however, they aimed to change their sound with OK Human, a surprisingly good step in the right direction that promised change for Weezer. With the production actually sounding quite solid, a smooth flow and a fun tone, it sounded like they were finally ready to be taken seriously again – even if their lyrical content was still rocky to say the least.

That makes Van Weezer an even more disappointing step backwards. This album, as is made obvious by the title, draws on heavy metal influences, but it seems like Weezer are still failing to understand that an array of loud instruments and tongue-in-cheek lyrics simply do not add up to great music. It’s just sort of abrasive and hollow in the long-run.

Sure, there are a couple of standouts here, with the best easily being “Hero”. You won’t want to listen to it to hear Rivers Cuomo sing “Swinging on a web, flying in the sky / Shooting lasers from my eyes,” but you may find some appreciation for the solid guitar and drum backing, and its lighthearted sound. Another one that’s relatively easy to get behind is “I Need Some of That”, which has a solid instrumental and Cuomo’s vocals are joyous and oddly uplifting, even if what he’s singing is, yet again, baffling. “Daydreaming of my escape, listening to Aerosmith / Later on I will call my mom” is not just the worst lyric on this track, but probably the worst on the album as a whole. It’s the kind of odd curveball that makes you wonder how much time Weezer actually spends on writing a song; “I Need Some of That” feels like it was written in an hour at most – and this is one of Van Weezer‘s highlights.

To compound the problems, the flow of the album isn’t all that strong either. Sure, Weezer are capable of making it worse, but the transition between tracks such as the death-metal aping “1 More Hit” to the power-pop brightness of “Sheila Can Do It” is incredibly jarring.

In a way, this is the purest definition of a 21st century Weezer album. A lot of people like to rag on them for making forgettable, airy music that leaves your brain after you listen to it, but that’s something that Weezer seems to be embracing at this point. Van Weezer is the definition of a modern Weezer album: if you go in expecting it to be as dumb and forgettable as other recent Weezer albums, you’re going to get exactly that.